Remember to Educate
In my brief time as a nursing student, I've come to realize most patients are not highly informed when it comes to health matters.
With healthy people, this makes sense some sense. For instance, if a woman doesn't have high blood pressure, I can understand why she wouldn't know the ins and outs of hypertension.
However, I've come to realize that many patients don't know much about their ailments they do have, and while it would be easy to blame the patient due to a lack of interest, I think the blame for that lies largely on our community of medical professionals.
During one of my clinical rotations, I took care of a patient who received an order for a thoracentesis. When meeting with the patient and his family, the doctor told them about the order but gave them no further information about the procedure or even what it would accomplish. As a result, they all became extremely worried after the doctor left. The fear in that room was so palpable that he might as well have told them a lobotomy had been ordered.
In another instance, I found myself taking care of a patient whose blood pressure had dropped severely. The nurse seemed alarmed, and sensing this, the patient also became worried. The hospital put her on 30-minute blood pressure checks,
hooked up a bag of saline and ordered a hemoccult, but gave the patient absolutely no information on what was happening. As a result, I later found her pacing around the room nervously unaware of how much of a fall risk she had become.
I know it can be easy to assume patients know certain things, but I've come to realize it's better and safer to err on the side of unawareness as the general baseline. Of course, in doing so, we need to be tactful and not create an aura of superiority, but otherwise, a simple explanation can go a long way in ensuring quality service and improved outcomes.